Russia trip reinforces Alaska ties

Monday, May 20, 2013 - 12:53

I got to spend the last week in St. Petersburg, Russia. A group of six from my church went to help facilitate an English camp and experience as much Russian culture as we could in one week. I felt for foreign travelers to the United States who struggle with language barriers. So many Americans have the attitude “You’re in America, speak American,” yet I was in Russia unable to speak Russian. My language skills were limited to yes, no, and my name is — “da,” “neyt,” and “menya zavut.”

When Russians would try to converse with me, my blank expression led them to ask, “American?” Cool acceptance to another U. S. tourist would accompany the next question: Which part of the States was I from? Countenances would change drastically again at my reply of “Alaska.” Faces would brighten with big smiles. Everyone knew my state and that it had once been Russian territory. In fact, Alaska was practically Russia. Therefore, I was no longer an American. I was an Alaskan...very nearly Russian myself.

Then people wanted to know if I had always lived in Alaska. The first few times I almost dreaded telling the truth and losing the new bond we had. However, I needn’t have worried. I was still an Alaskan now, and that was all that mattered. Once the number of states I had lived in was revealed, Russians wanted to know which state I liked best. I cemented our bond with my reply of “Alaska.” At my response everyone smiled and nodded as if to say that they knew the answer all along.

The question “Why?” always immediately followed. How long did I have to answer? Before arriving in the frontier state I was determined to love it. So I have found myriad things to love. First, the mountains, I love the mountains. Here the mountains are big and bold, and when I see them I know I am home. Then there is the climate. I do not like heat or oppressive humidity. I firmly believe there is no reason for the temperature to rise above 75. The flora and fauna also amaze. Moose walk nonchalantly down the streets. Salmon and halibut populate the waters waiting for fisherman. Fireweed and lupine cover fields in splendor. Everything is lush and green taking full advantage of the extra sun in the summer. Winters may be cold, but on a sunny day the blue sky and glittering, white snow create a scene so beautiful and pristine it hardly seems real. When it snows, I feel as if I am living in a snow globe. Adding to the wonders of nature are the people of Eagle River, who have welcomed me and my family into their lives and accepted us as their own. I can think of no better place to live.

I enjoyed my time getting to see the wonders of St. Petersburg and getting to know some of her people, but I am very glad to be back in Alaska. I fully agree with Dorothy, “There’s no place like home.”

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